Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Educators On-Edge, Frustrated As Limited ISTEP+ Testing Resumes Wednesday

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    A teacher helps a student use a laptop in a classroom during a lesson.

    Donna Sink says her 9-year-old son saw what was a common sight in Indiana schools during online ISTEP+ testing Monday and Tuesday:

    The dreaded “globe screen.”

    “Suddenly there was an image on everyone’s screen of a computer with a line connecting it to the globe,” Sink wrote on our Facebook page, “which I assume means connection to server/internet lost… They had to restart all the computers, but after several tries the principal told them they’d have to stop and do the test another time.”

    As Indiana schools enter their third day of testing, state education officials hope they’ve seen the last of the ‘Please Wait’ screens. They’ve given the go-ahead for testing to resume Wednesday, but are asking schools to cut their testing loads in half, a request that could extend ISTEP+ testing through the month of May.

    But the directive also deepens the logistical challenge for local educators in setting up online exams — we reported on that on Monday — with many districts’ school years coming to a close and other students needing to take exams other than ISTEP+.

    “Small-school districts like mine (jr-sr. high school) now have scheduling conflicts with ECA,” teacher Jolie Lindley tweeted last night, referring to the End of Course Assessments most students take in their freshman or sophomore years.

    Testing company CTB/McGraw Hill distributed a memo to schools late Tuesday apologizing for the errors. Although there were issues with online ISTEP+ testing the company provided in 2010 and 2011, those problems affected fewer than the roughly 30,000 students who were kicked off of online tests on Monday.

    “We regret the impact on Indiana schools and students and are making changes to correct the situation,” the statement reads:

    Prior to the start of this year’s testing, CTB conducted performance and load testing on our systems to simulate live school assessment scenarios. However, our simulations did not fully anticipate the patterns of live student testing, and as a result, our system configuration experienced service interruptions that impacted the testing process. We have adjusted the system settings and increased hardware to improve performance, and we are working with the Indiana Department of Education to consider test schedule changes to allow adequate time for the assessments.

    While students affected by the interruption will be able to resume testing where they left off and no data has been lost, we understand just how disruptive and frustrating these interruptions have been.

    But State Board of Education member Mike Pettibone says some students had to start over with new questions when they were let back into their assessments. On Twitter, MSD Wayne Township superintendent Jeff Butts writes:

    On Monday, issues began to surface on a wide scale around 10 a.m. Eastern. On Tuesday, issues began to surface around 11 a.m. Eastern. Knock on wood, hold your breath… educators, what are you seeing in your buildings today? As always, get in touch by e-mailon Twitter, or in the comments section below.


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